The Boy and I first heard of Café Davio (2516 E Carson) when Munch (of the PG) wrote a review in the summer. Despite The Boy living in Southside, we had never heard of the place. It was added to our ‘to try’ list. We learned this Café Davio is connected with Davio’s in Beechview.
Literally a few days later, while on vacation at the beach, an uncle (and sometimes commenter – hi Big D!) raved of the spot. Two recommendations for this place in a week? We had to go!
Well, fast forward a few months and The Boy and I finally find an occasion for a cozy dinner out. On Saturday afternoon, The Boy and I saw Cirque Du Soleil at the Peterson Event Center. The show was great – seriously some amazing physical stuff. The Pete is kind of a large venue though, and some of the details (facial expressions, etc) were lost a bit. However, we had a really nice time and I enjoyed it immensely (thanks for the tickets Boy!).
We wanted to continue our ‘date’ and so earlier in the week had made a 7:30PM reservation at Café Davio. Turns out, you pretty much must make a reservation. I did not see anyone come in without a reservation and there were no empty seats. There is really no room to wait inside here but it appeared if you arrived early for a reservation or your table wasn’t ready they would direct you ‘next door’ to what I think was the OTB Bicycle Café (not totally sure here but it seems Café Davio has a little set up with them or something for waiting guests!)
Café Davio is BYOB and cash only. We arrived right on time for our res and were seated promptly. The space is tiny and not fancy – however, they have spruced it up with white tablecloths, candles, etc. It works. There is also an open kitchen. We were warmly greeted by a host/waiter (actually, I think every staff in the restaurant visited our table at some point) who was so excited by the wine we had brought that it got us excited as well! He quickly popped open our 2001 Tommasi Amarone.
Our waiter pointed us in the direction of Café Davio’s price fix menu – $25 or $35 options, all including appetizers, salad, pasta, entrée, and cookies and coffee. To note, they also have an a la carte menu. The $35 options were mostly given verbally and of course both The Boy and I decided on one of those. He chose lamb chops and I chose scallops and shrimp in lemon butter.
First, we were served an awesome spread of marinated olives, dipping oil, bread, and a hummus-like dip. I did not catch what the waiter called the hummus but it sounded like some variation of the word ‘cece’, the Italian word for chickpea. It was a little thinner and chunkier than hummus. It all tasted so good. I could have just eaten everything on the table and stopped there!
However, next was a light salad, served family style. The waiter told us it was simply dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and mint. Really good, light, fresh. I loved the mint.
By now I was beginning to wonder how I would manage to eat the remainder of my meal. Yet, I soldiered on. After the salad was cleared, we were served small bowls of pasta. I really would have been blown away had the pasta been homemade, but it was not. However, this did not take away from my experience at all. The sauce was clearly homemade and rich, the pasta lightly dressed and topped with shaved parmesan and chopped parsley. The Boy finished off the small amount of pasta I left in my dish.
Overall, our service was great. Maybe not totally polished, but really really genuine. We waited here and there between courses, but really did not care. Sometimes it helps for dinners like this to be spaced out! The atmosphere was warm, the bread basket full, the wine glasses refilled. When are entrées did arrive, they were piping hot and evidently had moved directly from the kitchen about 10 feet from us and on to our table.
The Boy tore into his generous serving of lamb. He was amazed to see seven full lamb chops on his plate. Now, I am not one that is wowed by quantity alone – therefore, I was only wowed when I sampled the tender, juicy, beautiful lamb. The entrée came with a luscious sauce and roasted red peppers (I think they may have been the vegetable side dish of the day – I also had some with my entrée).
My scallops and shrimp were sautéed in a lemony butter sauce with artichoke hearts. The scallops were the highlight of the dish. Incredible. Large, sweet, and perfectly cooked. I barely made a dent in the generous portion.
After my remaining scallops and shrimp were wrapped up (um, no lamb left 🙂 ), we were served hot coffee, biscotti, and another type of light cookie. The biscotti were clearly homemade and heavily anise flavored, which I love. It was the perfect light, not too sweet ending to the meal.
The meal did lean toward the pricey side (close to $100 with tax, tip, and $5 corking fee) but was well worth it. They do have a la carte options as well! However, we just loved our whole Café Davio experience – amazing food, cozy atmosphere, friendly service, the open kitchen. We both came out smiling and satisfied. We will return – there was something a little magical about Café Davio.
(Also, don’t be deterred by the ongoing Carson Street construction outside Café Davio or any other small businesses in this stretch- park at the Southside Works complex or back a block toward the slopes on Sarah Street)